Macmillan

Lesson Share Winner!

I don’t often win things – just like the football team I support! However, I was lucky enough to be the Onestopenglish Lesson Share winner for February. Woohoo! Check out the competition here.

What was the lesson?

Resources based on my own short story called ‘Instant Coffee’. The resources should last around 2.5 hours of class time. They follow a text-driven approach (see my lesson here). B2 Level +.

The short story in 10 words…

Popular social media foodographer gets ‘eye camera implant’. It malfunctions.

I was really chuffed that Onestopenglish chose to edit and share my lesson. Some reasons why… (more…)

Lesson idea: present perfect time markers

activity from Gateway (Macmillan)

Here are a few fun activities for practising time markers used with the present perfect. There’s a review of these markers in a B1 level teen coursebook we’re using (Gateway, Macmillan). I found the meaning/rule activity in the book useful, but the practice tasks following it were a bit boring so I made up a few more.

Time markers practised: already, for, just, never, since, yet

BEEP game

  1. Students write one sentence for each time marker. They should personalise this.

e.g.

I’ve never been to Laos

I haven’t done my homework yet

Etc

  1. Students self-correct / peer-correct sentences with a partner. You could draw attention to possible errors (e.g. are the time markers in the right place?) or typical errors you know your learners make (e.g. *I’ve never been yet), just for a bit of direction
  2. Students change partners. They keep their sentences a secret. They read each sentence to their partner, but replace the time expression with the sound ‘BEEP’. Their partner guesses the missing word by repeating the complete sentence, like this….

(more…)

Making things up… during observed lessons

Last weekend I had a pretty scary lesson observation…

I’ve been observed more at British Council Thailand than in any other teaching job, which is to me a good thing. There have been formal observations twice a year, observations during training courses like the CELTA YL extension, short management observations during teaching/learning reviews, peer observation schemes, the list goes on…

Personally, I think there are things we can do to optimise our observation procedures. I touched upon one of these in this IATEFL-related post. However, I can’t argue with the amount of opportunities we have to get feedback on our teaching from managers and peers.

Anyway, about the weekend. I’m lucky – my current boss and I get on alright. She was my tutor on last year’s CELTA young learner extension course, and she’s well aware of my strengths and weaknesses. I like her feedback style and I welcome her comments as they are always constructive. She unnerves me a bit during observations with the way she stares, yawns and subconsciously shakes her head, but she never reads this blog so I can get away with saying that.

My rapport with the boss should have put me at ease – so why was this observation particularly scary? Well, because I decided beforehand that I wasn’t going to try and impress anyone. What do people learn about me as a teacher if they constantly see me trying to put on a performance? During peer observations I’m normally just myself, but whenever a manager comes to observe I feel like I’m being judged – like I have to ‘up my game’ or something. In particular, I feel I have to stick to the plan rigidly. (more…)

A rant about comprehension questions

On my module in materials development we’ve just looked at reading and listening tasks.

We spoke about what makes good/bad comprehension questions. ‘Plain sense’ questions are seen as pretty ineffective, as they just test familiarity with sentence structure rather than actual understanding. Here’s an example of a plain sense question that I came across on my Dip (at TLI)

Most zins are bosticulous. Many rimp upon pilfides.

Q1. What are most zins?

Q2. What do many rimp on?

Although the text is full of nonsense words you can answer the questions without really understanding it.

I can see why these questions aren’t considered that useful. So why do coursebook writers fall back on them?

I know, it’s really easy to be critical. I’m guilty of writing rubbish questions like this too. Actually, I don’t do it that often. I prefer to write really ambiguous questions which will prompt conversation/debate – these are equally annoying I think!

But these ‘plain sense’ questions… I mean… I came across this activity the other day:

comp

these are from Beyond A2+ (copyright Macmillan), which is actually quite a good coursebook.

Here’s the text, with relevant parts highlighted for each answer:

comp2

I’m not saying the whole activity is pointless. It’s just that some questions are plain sense or focus on simple grammatical relationships.

Q4: To have a healthy heart, how often do we need to exercise?

A: (To have a healthy heart, we should exercise for) 30 minutes at least three times a week

Q5: What happens if we do puzzles?

A: (if we regularly use our brains to do puzzles), we actually become more intelligent

I could give the author the benefit of the doubt I guess. For example, you can still teach some reading strategies related to the questions. In Q4 students could predict the answer based on question stems (e.g. How often = a frequency), then scan the text quickly for the relevant info – if they didn’t already have a massive clue by being given the start of the sentence. Maybe Q5 draws attention to the word ‘intelligent’ as new vocabulary, but you don’t need to know the meaning to answer the comprehension question.

I’m not suggesting how these questions could be improved. That’s not because I’m lazy. It’s because when they were devised they must have been written by a far more experienced teacher and then accepted by a skilled editor, both of whom must have had a clear pedagogical rationale for choosing these questions.